Weekend Thoughts - 1.16.16

Image  by  Dennis Jarvis , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Dennis Jarvis, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. Did you know that some states still allow corporal punishment in their public schools? That's right—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas still allow teachers to spank and paddle their students. In six of those seven states, black students account for 90 percent of in-school corporal punishment cases. To be sure, there has been a significant decline in the use of corporal punishment in public schools over the past 30 years. And for good reason too—psychologists agree that beating students does more than just harm students physically. It leaves psychological scars that can affect children for the rest of their lives. "Students who are witnesses or victims of such abuse can develop low self-esteem, magnified guilt feelings, and various anxiety symptoms; such results can have baneful results in the psychological and educational development of these students," a 2010 study from Michigan State University found. "[These students] very likely will learn techniques that actually lead to reduced self-control, with negative behavior characterized by more acting out, school absence, malingering, recidivism, and overt academic revocation." In fact, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and United Nations have opposed the practice, stating unequivocally that corporal punishment does more harm than good. However, even in our supposedly civilized age, some (primarily black) students in America continue to be beaten by school staff legally.

2. What should we do to address the issue of corrupt police? Create crime-fighting robots, of course!  In fact, as of last week, the residents of Silicon Valley have been the first to experience new police robots actively on patrol. Benefits include lower pay compared to human police officers (a mere $6.25 per hour, a rate which can continue to decrease, rather than needing to increase due to inflation and cost of living raises), less living beings placed in harm's way due to the fallibility of human judgment and emotional outbreaks, and less disgruntled, unintelligent idiots with power! Sounds like an excellent solution to me—impartiality with respect to crime definitely would appear to be an improvement over our current situation.

3. Speaking of police, new software has been adopted by police in San Fresno, California that automatically scans social media posts and calculates a "threat score", which is supposedly helpful for police arriving on a scene to identify potentially-dangerous individuals. However, the software is essentially looking for flagged keywords and phrases, which doesn't take into account the context of the original post. For example, someone might post the lyrics to a violent song, quote another individual ironically, or post the title of a violent book or movie. Other opponents assert that the software is unfairly targeting political activists, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, by actively flagging terms like "Mike Brown", "We organize", "Don't shoot", and "It's time for a change". How ironic (albeit simultaneously disheartening, frightening, and disgusting) is it that in the future, someone could be at increased risk for being shot by police because they have tweeted "Don't shoot!" in the past?!

4. Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder "Dread Pirate Roberts" of the underground marketplace Silk Road, has filed an appeal after being sentenced to more than two life sentences. His defense asserts that during his original trial, he was denied his fifth and sixth amendment rights to due process, the right to present a defense, and a fair trial by:

  1. Precluding the defense from using at trial the evidence relating to DEA Special Agent Carl Force's corruption.
  2. Refusing to order the government to provide additional discovery and Brady Material regarding corruption.
  3. Denying Ulbricht's motion for a new trial based on additional post-trial disclosures regarding Force and another corrupt law enforcement agent involved in the Silk Road investigation.

I wish Ulbricht the best in his fight against the government. If you would like to learn more about him, Silk Road, and how his trial was rigged by the authorities, I encourage you to check out Free Ross Ulbricht.

5. It turns out that members of Congress are not completely in favor of being spied on by the NSA, either. However, it took them finding out that they are also under surveillance to start giving a shit. Now it looks like some reforms will be made, specifically to limit the power of the NSA to spy on Congress—not to address the spying issue as a whole.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.